Polly helps leaders make their organizations more resilient, innovative, inspiring and accountable
In her speeches Polly showcases her brilliant storytelling ability and takes audiences on an inspiring journey – bringing to life the people, organizations and ideas on the fringe that are creating the future. A sought-after speaker, moderator, and interviewer, Polly has delivered hundreds of keynote addresses around the world.
Throughout her presentations Polly:
“Thanks so much for coming to Santa Barbara for our NBC retreat. You were both energetic and inspiring – and, trust me, I would have been thrilled to have one or the other! You gave us a lot to think about and you set the perfect tone for a lot of the issues that are facing us right at this moment.”
– Chairman, NBC Entertainment
“Thanks again for speaking at our Women’s Leadership Forum. Your remarks made quite an impact with our younger leaders, in particular. I spoke with several of them later and they were so energized by your talk, they are off implementing change!”
– Vice President, Narrowband Communications and Program Manager, Lockheed Martin
“I would like to tell you that the Planetree audience loved your presentation! Great job! I heard comments that you were the best keynote we have ever had by far! Thank you again for the presentation and also meeting with our staff afterwards. It was sensational!”
– Chief Creative Officer, Planetree
Polly’s Client List Includes…
For more than 20 years, LaBarre has used her writing, business consulting, and speaking to help organizations unleash and organize human potential in ever more powerful ways.
Polly is a co-founder of the Management Lab, a “think-and-do” tank dedicated to rebooting management for the 21stcentury. Along with her partners at MLab (pronounced “M-Lab”), Polly has developed a pioneering method and platform for changing how large organizations change. They run large-scale, real-world experiments in “hacking management” to build the deep organizational capabilities crucial for thriving in a creative, disruptive world: adaptability, innovation, and inspiration.
In addition to running global “management hackathons,” MLab has also built the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), the world’s largest community of management innovators, created a clearinghouse of management hacks and innovation stories, and launched a series of events.
Polly has traveled the world to study and work with the courageous contrarians, management mavericks, and pioneering progressives who are inventing the future of organizations and business. While these are organizations of every stripe that hail from every realm of endeavor, they do share a common credo: that all change is against the rules; that the future belongs to the mavericks, the misfits, and the heretics daring enough to stand up to the status quo; that inspiring, unleashing, and amplifying human creativity, passion, and resourcefulness is the most important work of all; that the most winning organizations are animated by an utterly distinctive and deeply-felt point of view – a set of ideas with the power to fundamentally reshape the sense of what’s possible; that work is personal, values rule, freedom is a bigger game than power, and nobody wins unless everybody wins.
Early in her career, Polly was part of the founding team of Fast Company magazine. There she played a central role in the remarkable success of a magazine that recast the conventional wisdom on power, competition, work, leadership, innovation, and change. The magazine introduced the world to a new universe of organizations and leaders whose management models were as distinctive as their business models were disruptive.
Polly is the co-author of the award-winning book Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, which was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller. Published in over 20 territories, Mavericks was a “Business Book of the Year” for the Financial Times, the Miami Herald, and The Economist, which called the book “a pivotal work in the tradition of In Search of Excellence and Good to Great.” CNN, CNBC, and GMA all created series around the book.
Polly’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Fast Company, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review online, Fortune.com, the McKinsey Quarterly, and she has served as business and innovation correspondent for CNN.
We live in a world where change is relentless, disruptive, even shocking. Success has never been more fleeting, and the ability to adapt more important. In this context, one of the most important questions leaders face is: Are you changing as fast as the world is changing? If your answer is “No, not really,” you’re not alone.
The “modern organization” was designed over a century ago not to adapt but to preserve the status quo, not to invent the new but to clamp down on deviations from the norm, and not to unleash people but to control them. How to change the DNA of an entrenched organization?
Polly has been exploring that question for nearly two decades. A captivating storyteller, Polly offers fresh perspectives to cast the most fundamental challenges for leaders and organizations in new light.
Audiences walk away with mind-flipping insights on how to evolve their management model—the most powerful source of competitive advantage today – and to build an organization that is truly fit for the future: endlessly adaptable, relentlessly inventive, and genuinely inspiring.
What company today doesn’t put innovation at the top of the agenda? Yet few have devoted the energy and resources it takes to build innovation into the values, processes, and practices that rule everyday activity and behavior. No wonder. That disconnect is a product of organizational DNA – productivity, predictability, and alignment are embedded in the marrow of our management systems. But it’s experimentation, risk-taking, and variety that produce game-changing innovation.
Polly demonstrates how to make every management process a catalyst, rather than a wet blanket, for innovation. She shares how the world’s most innovative organizations and leaders are strengthening their innovation DNA—and shows audiences how to lay out the welcome mat for new (and even dissenting) ideas, upgrade the innovation skills of every person in the organization, build in the crucial space and slack needed for innovation, develop a robust set of innovation metrics and tools, leverage new social technologies in service of invention and bust bureaucracy and promote experimentation.
For too long, the ruling ideology of too many organizations has been control—control people, control information, control deviations from the norm. That’s exactly the wrong design for generating the innovation and engagement required to thrive in the 21st century.
Today, leaders must shift their focus from controlling their “resources” to mobilizing and unleashing the full imagination, passion, and initiative of every person inside the organization. Those fundamental human qualities are the engine of the creative economy. They cannot be commanded, only inspired. In this presentation, Polly LaBarre shares how to create an environment and systems for work that unleash more freedom, creativity, and contribution—how to create an organization that is as human as the people who work inside it.
Polly takes audiences on a journey deep inside the “positive deviants”—the organizations and leaders riding the waves of change, mastering the competition, and surprising their customers and partners by busting bureaucracy, instituting radical autonomy, rethinking the work of leadership, promoting artistry and creativity, and cultivating trust and well-being.
In the coming years, the Web will have as profound an effect on management models as it has had on business models. The social Web is a seedbed of new organizational forms where coordination happens without centralization, all ideas compete on equal footing, contribution counts for more than credentials, mediocrity gets exposed, communities form spontaneously around shared interests, power comes from sharing rather than hoarding, and intrinsic rewards matter most of all.
Polly shows why organizations today must radically rethink how they mobilize people and organize resources to productive ends. She looks at progressive companies that are already using the new social technologies and undergirding principles of the Web to reinvent how they do strategy, allocate resources, make decisions, lead, engage, develop, and reward people. Learn how to expand the scope of employee freedom – to connect, to contribute, to create, to choose, and to challenge – open up the organization, trade hierarchy for meritocracy, cultivate community, build collaboration, and court serendipity.
Polly shows new ways to build a truly social organization that doesn’t sacrifice scale, efficiency, and discipline.
The era of the heroic, all-knowing, all-powerful leader is over. From the citizen activists of Arab Spring to the protestors of Occupy Wall Street to the emergence of Pirate Parties across Europe and the increasingly vocal disgruntled passengers of many an airline, the message is clear.
The established way of leading, ruling, governing, and managing is not working anymore. But if the leader is not in charge, what is the work of leadership today? Polly LaBarre’s presentation builds on the key theme of the new era — leadership is no longer a function of your title or where you sit in the organization; it’s a function of your capacity to get things done with other people. You’re a leader today because you have followers—not the other way around. This means that, at some point or another, everybody in the organization has a chance to exercise his or her leadership capability.
Polly gives audiences practical ways to embed 21st century leadership capability across the organization by:
The future belongs to the mavericks. If we want originality, invention, game-changing disruption—if we want our organizations to keep up with the times and stay ahead of the pack—we need to fill them with people who ignore the rules, flout convention, defy the gravity of the status quo, question constantly, and experiment fearlessly. In a world of non-stop competition and rampant commodification, mavericks are the people who invent the future and create the most value. In this talk,
Polly shows that you don’t have to be a born maverick—or a disruptive startup—to push your organization, your industry, or the world into the future. You just have to think (and act) differently. That’s easier said than done.
Polly offers audiences a “maverick manual” for individual success and organizational revitalization and shows how to:
Polly brings a world of experience to the stage when she engages panels and guests to explore the important issues facing business. For nearly two decades, she has designed and hosted events, led panels, interviewed celebrated thinkers and doers on stage and on television, and earned accolades for her ability to connect the dots and draw out deep insights during the course of an event.
At Fast Company, Polly co-created and hosted Real Time, the magazine’s 600+-person signature events; developed and hosted the Women’s Leadership Summit; and created and moderated the televised Fast Talk series. She has moderated and hosted a number of high profile events, including: IBM’s Centennial event (keynoter, interviewer, and panel leader); HSM’s World Innovation Forum and World Business Forum (emcee and panel leader); SXSW panel leader; NYU Social Innovation panel leader; Wavelength events (interviewed and moderated panels with progressive CEOs and leaders from the social innovation world); PopTech (series of interviews with thought leaders and sense-making for live stream); CNN interviewer/moderator.
Whether hosting, interviewing one-on-one or moderating a panel discussion, Polly LaBarre has a talent to create a lively, informative and memorable occasion.